Kitchen chemistry

baking cookies We’ve been doing a lot of kitchen-based chemistry lately. First, we baked these cookies. My primary motivation in making these was to have cookies to eat, but we also talked about solids and liquids, and how different liquids turn to solids at different temperatures (water vs. butter) and looked at how the texture of the dough changed as we added sugar, then flour, then oatmeal, and finally chocolate chips.

food coloring drops dispersing through water We added food coloring drops to a pan of water and watched them disperse (see this post for a more thorough food coloring and water experiment).

acids and bases experiment

Then I took the same pan of water, gave Emma white vinegar in a cup with a syringe and Johnny baking soda in a cup with a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon and had them play around with this acid-base combination (thank you Nicole from Tired, Need Sleep for providing this idea).adding baking soda to dyed vinegar

Next, we put white vinegar in the pan (with green food coloring, just for fun) and added baking soda for much more dramatic fizzing.

food coloring in oil and water

We finished off our kitchen chemistry by making a second batch of play dough (pink this time). We looked at how, when we added food coloring to water and oil, some of the food coloring got caught in the oil and so didn’t disperse as quickly.

oil, water, and food coloring mixed together Then we stirred it all up. We talked about how there were still a couple of beads of food coloring in oil that hadn’t gotten mixed in, and about how the big bubble of oil broke up into a bunch of little bubbles but didn’t mix perfectly with the water.

baking play dough

Finally, we baked the play dough. We talked about how the red water/oil mixture turned pink when we mixed it with the white flour, salt, and cream of tartar. We talked about how we put in flour to make the water thick, salt to keep it from sticking to everything, oil to make it feel less grainy from the salt, and cream of tartar to make it more stretchy. And, of course, food coloring to make a fun color. And we all enjoyed watching the mixture change quickly from soup-like to dough-like.

Do you know of any other fun kitchen chemistry activities we can try?

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

22 thoughts on “Kitchen chemistry”

  1. This is perfect for young children – a science that they can touch, smell and even taste. I think making jello would be another fun activity to try or maybe milk with color swirling. I also think that any “ocean in the bottle” type things look magical to children. I haven’t tried much here myself – I keep telling myself that my daughter will probably appreciate them even more when she is a bit older.
    .-= Natalie´s last blog ..StArt – A Penguin Story =-.

  2. Chromatography with coffee filters! Different solvents and food coloring or marker inks. Wouldn’t it be fun (time and youngest child permitting) to separate natural dyes? Like beetroot? Actually, I don’t know if a natural dye like beetroot would separate. Hm.
    .-= LiEr´s last blog ..Narnians sewing =-.

  3. what a fun Mom you are. Cookies sound good right about now. Yum
    .-= Beverly´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday- Chase me baby Shriek =-.

  4. Oh, how fun! This isn’t kitchen-y, necessarily, but Mel, Jess and I do “sink or float” experiments. We make a hypothesis about whether things will sink or float in water, and then test our hypotheses. Also, for added excited, you can float oil on water, and then see whether some things that float on the water sink in the oil. (It’s a good use for that rancid bottle of olive oil in my cupboard!)
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Whole =-.

  5. Wow! I am impressed by all the science you packed in – not sure I could explain it all to my kids, but I know they’d have a blast with the baking soda/vinegar one :-)
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Stages of Acceptance: Cold Chinese Pasta Salad, revisited =-.

  6. What fun! Reminds me I need to make more playdough.

    As for other activities to try, we’re gearing up to do our “Kitchen Scientist” badge in AHG so I’ve got lots of these ideas swirling in my head:

    *taste tests — seeing if you can close your eyes and guess what you’re eating; if they’re old enough, mapping out the taste bud areas on your tongue…

    * LiEr mentioned chromotography with coffee filters. what about other things like celery, carnations, etc in colored water

    * see if hot vs cold water affects how drops of food color disperse

    * if you can find the right kind of bottle/carafe and don’t think the kids are too little to do experiments near matches, the egg-into-the-bottle trick is pretty cool to see. (light a match, throw it into a wide-mouthed bottle, put a hardboiled egg on top; as the match burns away the oxygen, a vaccuum is created which sucks the egg in)
    .-= Karin @ madebyk´s last blog ..Continuous Family Calendar =-.

  7. Elisa | blissfulE

    These are all great ideas!

    Not an experiment per se, more of a sensory experience, but soap bubbles are good (clean!) fun. Just the feel of the bubbles, mixing to make them thicker, blowing bubble clouds…
    .-= Elisa | blissfulE´s last blog ..toilet training Lex =-.

  8. It’s so impressive that you take the time to have these conversations while you are doing things in the kitchen – good for you! I need to do more of that with M. BTW, I should’ve mentioned in my vinegar/baking soda post that we only used a little bit of water, and we did end up using a lot more vinegar – the dramatic foaming is the best!

  9. Andrea @ The Train To Crazy

    I didn’t read all the comments but did boiling ice get mentioned? We love to do that. Boil water, add ice cubes.
    .-= Andrea @ The Train To Crazy´s last blog .. =-.

  10. Making ice-cream in a bag is a nice kitchen science experiment – I’ve blogged about it or you can probably find the method by doing an internet search
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..a handful of activities to try with your 12 to 18 month old toddler =-.

  11. The cornstarch and water experiment is fun. Oobleck I think they call it. Anyway, these are all great activities. I need to play with vinegar and baking soda with Bear. I haven’t commented in a while, but I’m still here, lurking :)
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..A Guessing Game… =-.

  12. I will try it! Everytime the kids come along to the obstetrician he gives them these plastic syringes. Good idea for new use! The girls will love it!

  13. Bear and i were surfing pinterest. he saw this and went, “OOH! what’s that green stuff?” lol so we’ll be playing with baking soda and vinegar after lunch ;)

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